We first saw this fabric more than a year ago as a prototype material which DeFeet had fashioned into various garments, including a jacket. Goading us to try it on in the middle of summer, DeFeet president Shane Cooper smiled big as our jaws dropped.
Made of Tuf ‘n Lite Cool Fiber, the new UnD-ICE and Armskins ICE actually cool the skin as wind blows over them. Even better, they provide remarkable abrasion resistance, helping to protect your skin in the event of a wreck. In fact, the textile manufacturer says it’s tougher than commonly used aramid fibers like Kevlar.
UPDATED: New info added below about cooling effect and how it works.
But does it work? Well, I can’t vouch for the abrasion resistance, but I’ve been riding with one of the UnD-ICE undershirts this summer and it’s like air conditioning. Put your curiosity on ice after the break…
Designed for 80º to 100º F days, the ICE garments pull heat away from the skin with remarkable rapidity. In fact, they feel cool to the touch even when you’re not moving. Introduce wind (read: movement on the bike) and you’ve got something that automatically and continually chills you.
Cooper had this readout handy along with some gloves made from the material versus Aramid. It works by combining a synthetic wicking fiber that pulls moisture from your skin and another that actually feels cool to the touch.
In real world use, the undershirt rocks. Defeet recommends using it with a full zip jersey, and here’s why. When it’s bundled up under a jersey, particularly a tight fitting road jersey, the magic doesn’t happen nearly as well as it could. Unzip the jersey and let some fresh air in and *pow* it’s downright chilly. On a couple of warmer (read: stupid hot) rides, I remained fairly comfortable while others were complaining profusely and visibly overheated. Walk into an air conditioned room after the ride and you’ll get goosebumps. It’s crazy.
UPDATE #1: DeFeet’s tech guy sent over some documents and called us with a better explanation of how the material cools and feels cold. Basically the material is super dense and has virtually no ability to retain heat. So, it quickly draws heat from the body and dissipates it to the outside air, which is why it feels cold to the touch. That’s also why it really needs airflow to achieve effective cooling. They did mention that while they performed some basic temperature testing that showed slightly cooler skin temps on athletes using it, they stopped short (likely for budgetary reasons) of doing formal scientific core body temp testing to prove a benefit. Anecdotally, all test athletes said they felt cooler wearing it and their “basic” data backed it up. I concur, it made me feel cooler on hot days, particularly when I had my jersey unzipped or all the way open.
The better application, in my opinion, is the Armskins ICE. Even better, DeFeet should make a jersey from the material for really hot days. Putting the material in full contact with the wind would maximize the benefit of this amazing material. Given that body heat management can be a major performance factor, this could be big.
UPDATE #2: The material has been documented to have an SPF 50, making the Armskins in particular an even better piece to add to your collection.
UPDATE #3: Technical Document (click to enlarge):